It’s time for a climate revolution. Can the Paris Agreement take us there?


A year ago, against all expectations, delegates in Paris agreed on a groundbreaking new deal to take action on global warming.

In less than a year, the agreement came into force and was ratified by 113 nations, representing 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. It was unprecedented in the history of international agreements.

In Marrakesh, decision-makers moved quickly to begin to implement the deal. Here are a few of the key results:

  • The negotiators have begun to draw up rules and procedures to implement the Paris Agreement, and a plan to adopt them by 2018. This will help ensure all countries are focused on implementing their side of the deal.
  • The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action was launched. This is an ambitious plan to link up cities, governments and civil society – including indigenous communities - to curb emissions and help societies adapt. Around 10,000 different players, including private companies, cities and multilateral banks have also made massive pledges, including IKEA which announced one billion Euros in June to help developing countries to cope with climate change.
  • Developed countries now have a roadmap for delivering $100 billion worth of climate financing every year through the Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund.
  • There will now be a single mechanism for helping developing countries attain the knowledge, skills and institutional arrangements required to quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and report on the progress they made.

While I am optimistic about the political commitment of our decision-makers, I must also ring the alarm bell regarding the road ahead.

In today’s volatile political environment, if for instance the United States withdraws from the agreement, China, now the world’s biggest emitter, could follow suit. This could deal a devastating blow to the whole process.

Further, global warming itself is accelerating. 2016 is set to become the hottest year on record, with average temperatures already nudging towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

I’m encouraged to see almost all countries in the region where I work, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, have made formal pledges to curb emissions. However, it takes a leap of faith to envisage a low-carbon future, let alone one in which poverty has ceased to exist. We need to make sure changes in government, delays in legislation, lack of international financing and antiquated technologies do not stand in the way of progress.

But it isn’t enough for the negotiators in Paris or in Marrakesh to sign groundbreaking new deals. Tackling climate change requires every individual, household and community, every politician and every business to stay focused. Here are a few ways in which this can be done:

Accelerate the transition to green economies. Clean energy can take off within months. Between 2013 and 2014, for instance, investments in renewables were up 40 percent in China. One of the drivers behind the current boom has been the country’s catastrophic air quality.

Change current consumption patterns and behaviors. Consumers have more and more options, from locally-grown produce to carbon offsets. In addition, countering the current pessimism will require developing positive habits, such as low-consumption and the famous 3 “Rs”: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Look for innovative financing. It will take much more than government financing and development aid to mitigate climate change. One option is to rely more on crowdfunding and create cooperatives that can help bridge that gap.

Keep the political momentum. Governments must resist the temptation of catering to short-term interests. It’s important they build wide coalitions for tackling climate challenges, consistent with the sorts of institutional mechanisms required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We finally have significant collective action around climate change. If we want to have a future as a species, this is the right moment to rally for a breakthrough.

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